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Press Released: 11 Jan 2016

Four New Works, One Night Only: New Opera Showcase

Monday, January 18 at 8:00 p.m. | Trinity Wall Street

Featuring Excerpts of New Operas by Stewart Copeland, Hannah Lash, Bright Sheng and Sheila Silver

Tickets available at operaamerica.org/Showcase

The New Opera Showcase will also be live streamed at operaamerica.org/Live.

OPERA America, the national service organization for opera and the nation’s leading champion for American opera, announces the details for the New Opera Showcase, taking place on Monday, January 18 at 8:00 p.m. at historic Trinity Wall Street in Lower Manhattan. The Showcase offers artists, producers and audiences a unique opportunity to hear some of the most exciting operas being composed today.

This special one-night-only concert features excerpts from four new operas currently in development, selected by an independent jury of industry experts. Audience members will be among the first to hear these powerful new works:

  • Beowulf by Hannah Lash (composer and librettist)
  • The Invention of Morel by Stewart Copeland (composer) and Jonathan Moore (librettist)
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns, the Opera by Sheila Silver (composer) and Stephen Kitsakos (librettist)
  • Dream of the Red Chamber by Bright Sheng (composer) and David Henry Hwang (librettist)

The New Opera Showcase will be performed by NOVUS NY orchestra under the direction of Julian Wachner, with guest conductors Sara Jobin and Daniela Candillari.

Featured vocalists performing in the New Opera Showcase include sopranos Lucy Fitz Gibbon, Maureen McKay, Molly Netter and Vira Slywotzky; mezzo-sopranos Margaret Lattimore and Aleksandra Romano; tenors Thor Arbjornsson, Jonathan Blalock and Vale Rideout; baritones Jesse Blumberg, Ron Loyd and Christopher Magiera; and bass Jonathan Woody.

“The New Opera Showcase is a rare and invaluable event for the entire opera community — composers, librettists, performers, producers and audiences alike,” stated OPERA America President/CEO Marc A. Scorca. “Composers often don’t have the opportunity to hear their work with orchestra until they are in rehearsals before the premiere, and by then, it’s too late for them to make adjustments. Presenting these excerpts in a public performance gives the composers immediate feedback from the audience, which they might not otherwise have until opening night. The performances with orchestra also benefit opera producers by enabling them to hear the composers’ full sonic landscape in a way that simply reading a score cannot,” Scorca continued. “For audiences, the New Opera Showcase is a very special experience. Most people only hear an opera once the work is fully realized, so the Showcase is a unique chance to experience the creative process in action.”

OPERA America has a long tradition of directly fostering the creation and development of new works. Over the past 30 years, OPERA America’s Opera Fund has provided grants totaling over $13 million to assist companies with mounting new works. The New Opera Showcase is a component of OPERA America’s New Works Forum, the preeminent conference for creators and producers of contemporary American opera, taking place January 16 to 19 at the National Opera Center.

OPERA America’s newest grant program, Opera Grants for Female Composers, funded by The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, provides support for the development of new operas by women, both directly to individual composers and to opera companies producing their work, advancing the important objective to increase gender equality across the field. Sheila Silver, composer of the New Opera Showcase piece A Thousand Splendid Suns, the Opera, was one of the first recipients of a Female Composers grant in 2014.

Event Information

Monday, January 18, 2016, at 8:00 p.m.

Trinity Wall Street
75 Broadway (at Wall Street)
New York, NY 10006

$25 (general admission)
$10 (OPERA America members)
$5 (students with ID)

To purchase tickets or for more information about the New Opera Showcase, visit operaamerica.org/Showcase.

This performance will also be streamed live at operaamerica.org/Live.

The New Opera Showcase has been made possible with generous support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, as well as the Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts and the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation.

New Opera Showcase Works

By Hannah Lash (composer and librettist)

In this adaptation of the well-known epic poem, Beowulf is a doctor caring for his elderly mother and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder upon his return from a recent war. He discovers that his mother is being abused by the nursing home staff and removes her, determined to care for her himself, though she begs him to help end her life. This piece explores the psychological stresses placed upon someone whose role it is to save lives and take care of others.

Watch the introductory video

The Invention of Morel
By Stewart Copeland (composer) and Jonathan Moore (librettist)

Based on Adolfo Bioy Casares’ science fiction novel, this work focuses on an escaped fugitive on an isolated, strange island. While exploring his surroundings, the fugitive sees a group of tourists, including a beautiful woman with whom he becomes obsessed. However, something is not quite right in this paradise. He discovers that these eccentric visitors exist in an alternate reality created by a futuristic invention of Morel, a mad, scientific genius who willingly leads the group to their death.

Watch the introductory video

A Thousand Splendid Suns, the Opera
By Sheila Silver (composer) and Stephen Kitsakos (libretto)

Based on the international best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns is an inspiring story of love and triumph of the human spirit. Two women from different generations and walks of life are forced into marriage with the same troubled and cruel man. Enemies at first, they grow to love each other like mother and daughter. This bond gives them the strength to survive and ultimately risk their lives for one another and for a chance to be free.

Watch the introductory video

Dream of the Red Chamber
By Bright Sheng (composer) and David Henry Hwang (librettist)

Dream of the Red Chamber, a masterpiece of Chinese fiction, is a detailed, episodic record of the lives of the members of the Jia Clan, whose good fortune is assured when one of its daughters becomes an imperial concubine, and then declines after her death. The story centers on a love triangle consisting of the main character, Bao Yu, his beautiful cousin Dai Yu, and his future wife, another beautiful cousin named Bao Chai.

Watch the introductory video

New Opera Showcase Composers and Librettists

Stewart Copeland
Stewart Copeland has spent three decades in the forefront of contemporary music as a rock star, acclaimed film score writer and composer in the disparate worlds of opera, ballet, world music and chamber music. In 1977, Copeland formed The Police, a band that became a defining force in rock music. He spent 20 years as a successful film and TV composer, working for the likes of Francis Ford Coppola on Rumble Fish and Oliver Stone on Wall Street. Copeland went on to form Animal Logic with Stanley Clarke and Oysterhead with Trey Anastasio and Les Claypool, meanwhile finding time to win the Archie David Cup with his polo team. His first opera, Holy Blood and the Crescent Moon, was commissioned for the Cleveland Opera in 1989. In April 2011, he wrote a short opera based on the Edgar Allan Poe story “The Tell-Tale Heart,” which premiered at the Royal Opera House in London.

This season, Copeland premieres his new percussion concerto, Tyrant's Crush, with the Pittsburgh Symphony, followed by performances with the New West Symphony. He remounts his score for MGM’s silent film classic Ben-Hur, performing with the Seattle Rock Orchestra, Pacific Symphony and Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra. Awards include the keys to the city of Milan, the Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters, five Grammys and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Through it all, a sense of humor and appreciation for his utterly unique career has shone through as Copeland has enjoyed working in a remarkable array of genres.

David Henry Hwang
To call David Henry Hwang a major American dramatist is something of an understatement. Described by The New York Times as "a true original" and by Time magazine as "the first important dramatist of American public life since Arthur Miller," Hwang is best known as the author of M. Butterfly. That enduring 1988 work, which won a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, John Gassner Award and Outer Critics Circle Award, was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His play Golden Child premiered Off Broadway at the Joseph Papp Public Theater, received an Obie Award and subsequently played on Broadway, where it received three Tony nominations. Yellow Face, which premiered at Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum and New York's Public Theater, also won an Obie Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Chinglish premiered at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, where it won a 2011 Jefferson Award for Best New Work before moving to Broadway and being named Best New American Play of 2011 by Time magazine.

According to Opera News, Hwang is America’s most-produced living opera librettist. He has written four works with composer Philip Glass, including 1000 Airplanes on the Roof, and his libretti have been performed at the Metropolitan Opera, The Santa Fe Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Lincoln Center, Spoleto Festival USA and elsewhere. The Deutsche Grammophon recording of his libretto for Ainadamar won two Grammy Awards after having spent time at the top of Billboard magazine’s classical music charts. His most recent libretto is for An American Soldier, with music by Huang Ruo. The opera premiered at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater in June 2014.

Stephen Kitsakos
Stephen Kitsakos is a librettist, author and theater journalist. For the American composer Sheila Silver, he wrote the libretto for the chamber opera The Wooden Sword (2009), winner of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in Composition; a cantata for women’s vocal quartet, The White Rooster: A Tale of Compassion (2010), commissioned by the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries; and the opera A Thousand Splendid Suns (2015), based on the international bestselling novel by Khaled Hosseini. An advocate of the transformational power of art, Kitsakos explores in his work the connection between the healing power of the performing arts and the use of sacred texts to inspire contemporary storytelling.

A graduate of NYU and a writer member of ASCAP, the Dramatists Guild and the BMI Lehman Engel Workshops, Kitsakos has received writing commissions and support from the New York State Council on the Arts, the Catskill Watershed Corporation, the BMI Foundation, The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art and the Episcopal Diocese of New York. His recent novel The Accidental Pilgrim, set at an archaeological dig in Northern Israel, explores the intersection between science and religion. It was released by ASD Publishing in 2015. A contributing writer to The Sondheim Review, as well as Music in American Life, Kitsakos is the former assistant chair of the Department of Theatre Arts at SUNY New Paltz, where he thought courses in performance and theater studies from 1999 to 2013. Currently, he splits his time between Key West and New York City.

Hannah Lash
Hailed by The New York Times as “striking and resourceful” and “handsomely brooding,” Hannah Lash’s music has been performed worldwide at venues such as The TimesCenter in Manhattan, the Art Institute of Chicago, Tanglewood Music Center, Harvard University, the MusicX festival in Switzerland, the Chelsea Art Museum and American Opera Project’s stage in New York City. Commissions include The Fromm Foundation, The Naumburg Foundation, Boston Symphony Chamber Players, Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Carnegie Hall, American Composers Orchestra, Orchestra of the Swan, The Orpheus Duo, Talujon Percussion, The Howard Hanson Foundation’s Commissioning Fund, Case Western Reserve’s University Circle Wind Ensemble, MAYA and the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble.

Lash has received numerous honors and prizes, including the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a fellowship from Yaddo, the Naumburg Prize in Composition, the Bernard Rogers Prize in Composition, the Bernard and Rose Sernoffsky Prize in Composition and numerous academic awards. Lash obtained her Ph.D. in composition from Harvard University in 2010. She has held teaching positions at Harvard University and Alfred University, and she currently serves on the composition faculty at Yale University School of Music.

Jonathan Moore
Jonathan Moore is an award-winning actor, writer and director. As an actor, he has played leading roles at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal Court, Donmar and Royal Exchange, as well as on film, BBC TV and radio. He has directed theater and opera world premieres at the Almeida, Donmar, West End, Royal Exchange, Gate, English National Opera, Covent Garden and La Fenice in Venice, among many others. He has directed plays from contemporary to Shakespeare, as well as world premieres by composers such as Turnage, MacMillan, Henze, Schnittke, Nyman and Copeland. His early work was sponsored by Joe Strummer of The Clash, and he collaborated with members of the punk band Killing Joke and with industrial music group Test Dept.

A published playwright and librettist, Moore has had his work performed at leading theaters, including Donmar, Royal Exchange and Gate, as well as on BBC TV and radio. Moore was asked by Mark Rylance to direct the large-scale, immersive, site-specific project for over 50 performers, titled What You Will, a co-production of Shakespeare's Globe, The Cultural Olympiad and the Mayor’s Office. His latest play, INIGO, about Ignatius of Loyola and the Jesuits, had a successful Off West End run and was transferred to the Main House of the Pleasance. Moore is due to direct a large-scale, site-specific, immersive project for Ludovico Einaudi in Italy and a new opera project with Stewart Copeland. He has spoken on the arts at the Oxford University Union and on several BBC TV and radio programs. He is on the Artistic Advisory Committee of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He has been a Who's Who entrant since 2007.

Bright Sheng
Bright Sheng is respected as one of the leading composers of our time, whose stage, orchestral, chamber and vocal works are performed regularly by the greatest performing arts institutions throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Proclaimed by the MacArthur Foundation in 2001 as “an innovative composer who merges diverse musical customs in works that transcend conventional aesthetic boundaries,” Sheng creates music with a strong Asian influence. However, it is the synthesis with Western musical tradition that makes his work truly distinctive and original, an outcome from his profound understanding of both cultures. As Sheng admits, “I consider myself both 100 percent American and 100 percent Asian.”

In September 2016, San Francisco Opera will premiere Sheng’s commissioned opera Dream of the Red Chamber, featuring a libretto by David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly and Chinglish) and Sheng, based on a beloved Chinese novel by the eighteenth-century writer Cao Xueqin. In addition to composing, Sheng enjoys an active career as a conductor and concert pianist, and he frequently acts as music advisor and artistic director to orchestras and festivals. He is currently the Leonard Bernstein Distinguished University Professor at University of Michigan and the Y. K. Pao Distinguished Visiting Professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, where, in 2011, he became the founding artistic director of The Intimacy of Creativity — The Bright Sheng Partnership: Composers Meet Performers in Hong Kong. Sheng was born in 1955 in Shanghai and moved to New York in 1982 to pursue graduate work, study composition and conduct privately with his mentor Leonard Bernstein. Bright Sheng's music is exclusively published by G. Schirmer, Inc.

Sheila Silver
Sheila Silver’s compositions have been commissioned and performed internationally. Germany’s Wetterauer Zeitung wrote of Silver: “Only a few composers in any generation enliven the art form with their musical language and herald new directions in music. Sheila Silver is such a visionary.” Recent honors include a 2014 OPERA America Discovery Grant for Female Composers, funded by The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, and a 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship — both for the opera she is currently composing, which is based on A Thousand Splendid Suns. Other honors include the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in Composition; Bunting Institute Fellowship; Rome Prize; Prix de Paris; American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Composer Award; and awards and commissions from The Rockefeller Foundation, Camargo Foundation, The MacDowell Colony, New York State Council on the Arts, Barlow Foundation, The Fromm Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Cary Trust.

Silver recently returned from a six-month stay in Pune, India, where she studied Hindustani music with Pandit Kedar Narayan Bodas. Her intention is to incorporate an authentic Hindustani color (Hindustani music is at the core of the music of Afghanistan, where her opera takes place) into her Western voice. Over the past 25 years, Silver has composed several substantial works for Gilbert Kalish: Sonata for Cello and Piano (1988, CRI/New World Records), Six Preludes for Piano on Poems of Baudelaire (1992, CRI/NWR), Twilight’s Last Gleaming (2007, Bridge), for two pianos and percussion, and Two Songs for Diane, in memoriam (2012), for soprano and piano.

Onstage at the Opera Center

The New Opera Showcase concert is part of OPERA America’s 2015–2016 Onstage at the Opera Center series of performances and discussions. The second half of the Onstage season includes the following events, all taking place at OPERA America’s National Opera Center in Midtown Manhattan and streaming live at operaamerica.org/Live:

Creators in Concert

  • Jake Heggie, Composer | Tuesday, March 15 at 7:00 p.m.


  • Sondra Radvanovsky, Soprano | Thursday, March 3 at 7:00 p.m.
  • Isabel Leonard, Mezzo-soprano | Thursday, April 7 at 7:00 p.m.

Emerging Artist Recital Series

  • The Glimmerglass Festival Young Artists | Thursday, February 25 at 7:00 p.m.
  • Jensen Foundation Competition Winner: John Brancy, Baritone | Thursday, May 5 at 7:00 p.m.

Masters at Work: Crafting an Opera with Carlisle Floyd

  • Orchestrating | Friday, January 15 at 1:00 p.m.
  • Design and Creative Team | Friday, March 18 at 1:00 p.m.
  • Rehearsal and Performance | Friday, April 15 at 1:00 p.m.

For more information about the 2015–2016 Onstage at the Opera Center season or to purchase tickets, visit operaamerica.org/Onstage.

Onstage at the Opera Center events are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.


For more information on OPERA America, visit About Us.

For press inquiries, contact Press@operaamerica.org or 212.796.8628.